While revenue is a useful signal to founders, indicating they are creating something people want, it is also a lagging indicator of success. By the time a startup has a predictable and steadily growing revenue stream that means it has built a product and brought it to market successfully.
Early revenue can be dangerously distracting for founders. Once you have some of it you want more, and without strict discipline it’s easy to optimize for immediate gratification rather than the big vision.
Don’t let revenue be your vanity metric.
(1) Compare this to Growth rate in revenue or active users is the paramount startup metric.
(2) Even if revenue isn’t the right metric for early stage startups, you still need to know where your revenue will come from. You need to know the end game. This is because the key goal of early stage startups is to achieve product-market fit, and product-market fit requires a market, a business model and customer engagement.
(3) Delaying figuring out your source of revenue can be dangerous, because monetization of free products after the fact is challenging.
(4) For these reasons, there’s a strong argument to be made that even with freemium, it’s easier to start with the paid product.